Preview: Decathlon Itiwit Packraft

After doing so well with their budget IKs, Itiwit, Decathlon’s paddle sports brand, have entered the packraft market with the TPU Itiwit Adventure 500 Packraft. Complete with a 50-cm TiZip for in-hull storage, thigh straps and a ‘bikerafting’ deck, you pay 500€, were it available.
The boat was launched online in August 2021, then withdrawn, some claimed due to safety issues (see below). It was online again in the UK when I wrote this in September. Now the UK Decathlon page is a ‘404’ again, although the boat appears online in European stores, ostensibly unchanged, but still unavailable.
Rated at WW2, above left it looks mostly black but is actually ‘Dusty green / Blood orange’, as the action shots below clearly show. There’s an online manual here.

As with hardshells (especially sea kayakers) vs inflatables), there can be a certain ‘know-all’ snobbery, evident here too when a huge outfit like Decathlon – known for their keenly priced, own-brand outdoor gear – barge in on the cottage industry of packrafting.
Those scoffers may like to look at Itiwit’s X500 IK; no one else has even got close to making an FDS IK like that, so it’s a mistake to assume Decathlon only bang out cheap crap for the masses. I doubt Itiwit sell many X500s, but from £260, I bet their wide-as-a-door budget IKs are the best selling budget inflatables in the UK, if not Europe. River-pootling, dog-in-the-boat recreationalists absolutely love them. Packrafts being pretty similar, the ‘Adventure 500’ will be popular too (as often, Itiwit are vague or inconsistent about model names.). At Decathlon you get a lot for your money and they are also helpfully on hand to clarify the difference between rafting and packrafting.

Size is 230cm x 90cm which is near identical to my Rebel 2K and a do-it-all packrafting standard, even if the image above left above suggests it’s some 13cm longer, assuming the width is 90cm. The claimed weight comes in at a hefty 3.8kg; that’s PVC packraft territory though includes all the kit shown left. There is no mention of TPU denier, tube diameter or internal dimensions, though they’re probably standard too. One reviewer even doubts it is TPU.

The carry bag doubles as a dry bag (like Gumotex IKs) but also works as the inflation bag via a tube. Three uses; quite clever if not weight minimalising. The packraft (and the bag?) has a regular Boston valve like Itiwit IKs, so you’d then use that tube or the boat valve to top up by mouth. Give it all you got: a firm boat responds much better on the water.

The bag and both valves state: ‘Maximal Pressure 1 psi / 0/07 bar‘ which is almost down to slackraft level, but there’s no way of telling when you reach that pressure. Like most well-made TPU packrafts, it ought to be able take a more than that and unless you’re Tarzan, you can’t over-inflate a packraft with your lungs. Left in the sun out of the water, dark green may heat up and raise internal pressures quicker than much lighter colours, though packrafts stretch better than IKs. I’ve not heard of a proper packraft blowing a seam due to overheating, unlike countless cheap PVC IKs. Meanwhile, the conformity label (below right) states a more realistic 1.5psi / 0.1 bar.

Allons-y!

The hull’s raised lashing/carry straps look fairly chunky and will be easy to grab from the water. But despite what is claimed, the ‘deck’ can’t keep out splashes over the bow; they’ll just stream right into your lap, even if it does appear to make a good platform for a bike. Good on Itiwit for recognising the appeal of bikerafting (on social media, at least). It will all help potential buyers ‘get’ packrafting.

The inclusion of thigh straps (badly translated as ‘knee pads’) seems odd, given the boat’s profile and implied WW2 use. It suggests Itiwit misunderstood the product, or tried to be a bit too clever with added features. Thigh straps definitely help when using any inflatable beyond Grade 2 white water – ie: when some skill and technique must be applied alongside raw nerve. But realistically, you’d need a proper sealed deck or a self-bailer to tackle such conditions. This boat will be swamped after the first couple of rapids.

It was pointed out that the small sprung-gate snaplinks aka: karabiners (‘biners’ or ‘krabs’) used to attach the straps to the hull are an entrapment hazard. Rock climbing practice has long recommended using screw-gate (locking) krabs on the climber’s harness, even if loads of sprung-gate (open) krabs are dangling off it, attaching the gear. Below from the manual: orange krabs at the front, black by the seat. Rationale unknown, but may become so on seeing the actual boat.

Allons y

A few years ago I recall Alpacka’s founder was reluctant to introduce any type of thigh strap (however attached) to her growing range of white-water packrafts. Iirc, Alpacka even experimented (unsuccessfully) with strap-free knee blocks. A hardshell creek boat has them under the deck to help triangulate your body and transform control from the hips. For gnarly white-water, surf and not least rolling, straps are pretty much essential on appropriately decked (or bailed) IKs and packrafts. Elsewhere they’re just not needed as unlike an IK (not least a boxy FDS), a packraft is a cozy fit round the hips and against the back and feet, providing bracing and connection like a well-laced running shoe.
While inadvertently getting your pfd straps hooked to the Itiwit’s mini sprung-gate krab is faintly possible while getting rolled around in a Grade-4 stopper, it’s much more likely with full-size krabs. Thigh straps are the bigger entrapment hazard, as is any loose, foot-trapping rigging on a boat, on top of the many other ways of coming to grief on eaux vivant. In more sedate flatwater paddling scenarios, regular open krabs are a handy way of quickly securing stuff; my boats have several, though I find myself using corrosion-free SoftTies more and more.
Go ahead and fit screw-gate/locking krabs or a chunky re-usable SoftTie; your entrapment risk will not be eliminated if you get in trouble. For normal packrafting, I’d simply remove the straps to reduce the clutter.

Though not mentioned, there’s a line of adjustment tabs on the floor, possibly footrest mounts for shorter folk? But no backrest, which are largely redundant on a packraft anyway. Under the deck is some tensionable elastic cord to stash your carry bag up out of the way once on the water. Nice touch, or another entrapment hazard? Lord oh lord, what a minefield!

There’s also what looks like a whole lot of buoyancy at either end, though they rate it at 125kg; boater with gear. Then again – unlike with IKs – when’s the last time anyone ever rated a packraft’s buoyancy? It’s such a vague metric and as it is, I’m not sure I’ve ever come close to 125 kilos; camping with a bike may push it to that limit.
More impressions when/if one turns up at my local Decathlon store.